U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted Sunday that “I am the only one who can get you where you have to be,” addressing North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “You should act quickly, get the deal done. See you soon,” he wrote, hinting at a possibility of holding another summit with Kim. His tweets came in 10 hours after the defense chiefs of South Korea and the U.S. announced in Thailand the postponement of their joint air exercises originally set for later this month.
Though Kim has yet responded to Trump’s gesture, the U.S.-North Korea nuclear talks, which have stalled after their meeting in Stockholm last month ended with no agreement, are likely to resume in the near future. Washington and Pyongyang have recently exchanged messages. When the North condemned the South Korea-U.S. combined exercises, Washington expressed its intent to make adjustments. As Pyongyang responded positively, the United States decided to put off the joint drills, with Trump himself urging the North to return to the negotiating table.
It looks like as if Washington tries to appease the Kim regime, while the North reluctantly responds. This gives enough reason for observers to speculate that Trump, cornered by the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry and defeats in local elections, is attempting to turn the public’s attention to diplomacy with North Korea. In the meantime, Pyongyang is being all the more arrogant. Kim has made a series of military inspections and ordered the army to prepare for war, while specialized railcars appeared at the site of the Yongbyon nuclear complex.
The North has already escalated the level of its demands toward the United States. Right after Seoul and Washington announced the postponement of their joint air drills, North Korea’s foreign ministry issued a statement in which it said the United States should first drop its “hostile policy” toward the North before discussing denuclearization. The withdrawal of the hostile policy refers to security guarantees and sanctions relief. The North is also pressuring the United States to not take issue about North Korea’s human rights record. This may be the reason South Korea has suddenly left the list of countries that support a UN resolution to urge North Korea to improve its human rights situation.
The Trump administration may intend to break the current deadlock and bring the North back to the negotiating table first, but if it continues to be dragged by Pyongyang like this, Washington will not be able to properly discuss the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Granted, it would be most desirable if we could resolve the North’s nuclear issue via dialogue. However, talking for the sake of talking would not help making progress in the process, and “a political show” would only delay and exacerbate the crisis.